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Chen v. City of Syracuse

March 9, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Neal P. McCURN, Senior U.S. District Court Judge


Plaintiff Ling-Rong Chen ("Mrs. Chen") brings this action for monetary damages against the City of Syracuse ("City"), the City of Syracuse Police Department ("Police Department"), Syracuse Police Officer John Reilly ("Officer Reilly"), and Syracuse Police Officers whose names and shield numbers were unknown at the filing of the complaint ("John Does"*fn1 ) (collectively, "Police Officer Defendants"), pursuant to 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983. Plaintiff seeks redress for alleged violations of civil rights secured to her by, but not limited to, the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution in the form of general damages and punitive damages, together with the costs and disbursements of this action. Specifically, the eight-count complaint alleges the following federal and supplemental state law claims: excessive force, false arrest, false imprisonment, illegal search and seizure, and unlawful interrogation pursuant to § 1983 against only the Police Officer Defendants;*fn2 false arrest, battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and malicious prosecution brought under pendent jurisdiction against all defendants; and negligent supervision, including negligent training of officers, detectives and employees against the City and the Police Department only.

The court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C.A. §§ 1331 and 1343(a)(3). Currently before the court is the Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint (Doc. No. 4) pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. For the reasons stated below, the motion to dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

A. Facts

The following facts are taken from the complaint herein, and are presumed to be true for the purpose of this motion to dismiss. At about 5:30 in the afternoon on September 23, 2005, Mrs. Chen was at the Syracuse Hancock International Airport in Syracuse, New York, intending to travel to Los Angeles with her husband, Dr. Chau Fang Chen ("Dr. Chen"). Upon approaching the ticket counter, the Chens were informed by ticket agent Lori Sundberg ("Sundberg") that their flight had been cancelled. Mrs. Chen asked Sundberg to check for alternative flights, and she was told that there were none. Sundberg told the Chens that they had two options, either to take a refund or to take a flight the next morning. Mrs. Chen asked to speak to a supervisor. Sundberg did not respond or grant the request. After further conversation between the parties, Dr. Chen admonished Sundberg by declaring that Sundberg had an "attitude problem." Sundberg then summoned Officer Reilly and asked him to intervene. The complaint alleges that Officer Reilly confronted Mrs. Chen, and ordered her to leave the airport. Officer Reilly subsequently grabbed Mrs. Chen and handcuffed her. Mrs. Chen alleges that a police officer then dragged her across the airport terminal, and at one point the officer lifted her off the ground by her arm, causing her wrists to bear the weight of her body. This action allegedly caused Mrs. Chen to suffer from handcuff neuropathy, which permanently damaged the nerves in Mrs. Chen's wrist.

The defendants, in further support of their motion to dismiss, have attached Affidavit A (the police incident report and sworn statements from involved persons) to their reply memorandum of law (Doc. No. 10). The defendants allege that Officer Reilly, acting on a request from Sundberg to remove two unruly customers from her ticket counter, approached Dr. and Mrs. Chen and politely asked them to step away from the counter. Officer Reilly states that the Chens refused and Mrs. Chen began yelling at Sundberg, at which point the officer stepped in front of Mrs. Chen and instructed her to calm down and to leave the airport. Officer Reilly alleges that Mrs. Chen then placed her hand on his chest and pushed him out of the way. Officer Reilly advised Mrs. Chen she was under arrest for disorderly contact and resisting arrest, and asserts that she resisted arrest by pulling away from him and continued to "fight and kick at" him. (Doc. No. 10, Affidavit A at 11). Officer Reilly placed handcuffs on Mrs. Chen, who was then escorted across the airport to the police office by Officer Burns. Mrs. Chen is alleged to have kicked and screamed "the entire length of the airport during this escort." Dr. Chen was escorted to the police office by Officer Kliest but was released without charge. Id. In their reply memorandum (Doc. No. 10), defendants further state that Mrs. Chen was "screaming, yelling and pointing her finger at Sundberg," as well as "upsetting the other passengers in line at the airport." Id.

In her response in opposition to the motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 6), Mrs. Chen addresses the assertion that she pushed officer Reilly by stating that he first yelled at her to "get out of my airport," and then "used his imposing size and began to push his chest against Mrs. Chen's body. Feeling threatened, and in an attempt to protect herself, Mrs. Chen raised her arms to cover her face and chest." Officer Reilly grabbed Mrs. Chen and proceeded to handcuff her "without provocation." Mrs. Chen was dragged across the airport terminal by police officers who disregarded her "cries of pain and pleas to stop." Id.

Mrs. Chen complains that she was then transported in a police vehicle to the Syracuse Police Department Holding Center, where she was placed in a cell and held overnight. She was charged with disorderly conduct, harassment and resisting arrest. At a jury trial held on February 8 and 9, 2006, Mrs. Chen was found not guilty of the charges. (Doc. No. 1).

B. Procedural History

On December 13, 2005, prior to the resolution of the criminal charges against her, Mrs. Chen's then attorney, Edward Menkin, Esq. ("Attorney Menkin"), filed a written Verified Notice of Claim which was hand delivered to the Office of Corporation Counsel of the City of Syracuse ("Corporation Counsel"), within the requisite ninety days after the claim arose. On February 13, 2006, a written Supplemental Verified Notice of Claim was filed by Attorney Menkin on behalf of Mrs. Chen, and was also hand delivered to the Corporation Counsel.

On February 28, 2006, Attorney Menkin sent a letter to the Corporation Counsel via facsimile requesting that "the City forbear its request to conduct its § 50-h Hearing"*fn3 while making it clear that he no longer represented Mrs. Chen with regard to the matter. The City did not subsequently request a § 50-h hearing. When the statute of limitations was about to run on Mrs. Chen's intentional tort causes of action and she had not received a written demand from the City for a § 50-h hearing, Mrs. Chen filed her complaint with this court on September 22, 2006.

II. Discussion

A. 42 U.S.C.A. ยง 1983 ...

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